Hustings accused of being ‘designed’ to attack one candidate

Mike Gapes

Mike Gapes - Credit: Archant

The Labour candidate for Ilford South has claimed audience members at an election hustings had “an agenda” against him.

Organisers have been labelled as “unhelpful”, partial and accused of setting up an event to deliberately abuse Mike Gapes in a separate attack.

A letter sent by Tanweer Khan, of the Pakistani Anti-Grooming and Abuse League (PAGAL), to the Recorder complained of “bogus interrogators” being “planted” in the audience at the Ilford Islamic Centre, in Albert Road, Ilford, on Sunday.

He also wrote: “The whole process had been designed to attack Mike Gapes.”

The final hustings event before the general election on May 7 has been criticised in other quarters too, with Conservative candidate Chris Chapman admitting he was tempted to leave at one point.

Mr Gapes said: “There were people in the audience who came to attack me personally – but I am robust person. The overall tone was bit negative, but I have had worse.”

Mr Gapes said the vast majority of people he had met on the campaign trail were “friendly”.

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But with organisers being able to invite people to their event there is always a danger of audiences having an agenda against a particular candidate, he added .

Mr Gapes was keen to stress no criticism lay with the event’s chairman Farouk Ismail, of Federation of Redbridge Muslims Organisation, who was overseeing his first hustings.

Mr Ismail told the Recorder: “I told the candidates at the beginning I was no [Jeremy] Paxman or [David] Dimbleby.”

He confirmed there were no pre-decided questions and insisted he felt the debate was “interesting and was a lively discussion.”

“With 100 people attending I am quite surprised you have not received more letters,” he added.

Mr Ismail admitted with Mr Gapes being the incumbent he was under pressure by the audience to provide clear answers.

“The underlying message was can you do more for this borough?,” he said.

Mr Chapman said proceedings got “a bit personal”.

He said: “We said if it continued we would disengage. I would have preferred it if the audience had stuck with political issues – not personal ones.”

RoseMary Warrington, the Green Party candidate, dismissed the idea that the meeting was “designed to attack” Mike Gapes.

She said: “There were a lot of questions and there was a lot of energy – I think it was a really good meeting.

“People did want to talk to Mike Gapes about his record. “He answered as many questions as he could.”

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